Katsuhide (“Kats”) Maeda, MD, PhD , joins Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) as the Director of Mechanical Circulatory Support and ECMO and the Surgical Director of Cardiac Lymphatics. Dr. Maeda comes to CHOP from Stanford, where he served as the Surgical Director of Heart and Lung Transplantation, the Surgical Director of Pediatric Ventricular Assist Support and the Surgical Director of Adult Congenital Heart Disease. A world leader in the field of mechanical circulatory support in children, Dr. Maeda has authored more than 90 papers and currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.
Though he’s just getting settled at CHOP, Dr. Maeda graciously took time out of his busy schedule to talk about what led him to pediatric surgery, how he found CHOP, and the importance of patience — both as a surgeon and when it comes to pursuing your dreams.
Q. What led you to pursue pediatric medicine?
A. When I was a medical student, I was always very motivated by challenge. I wanted to pursue something I felt would challenge me — that’s why I chose general surgery residency. After five years, I wanted to do something more difficult, so I completed my cardiothoracic surgery residency, and then, four years later, decided to pursue pediatric cardiothoracic surgery. Since becoming a doctor, I’ve never been able to live with the fact that innocent children suffer from devastating diseases. I thought I would become a doctor and be able to save children. The reality, however, is that I have learned so much from the children I have worked with. They have taught me how to treat them. I owe these children a lot — they have changed my life. Now, my goal is not only to improve the lives of the individual children I treat, but to contribute something to the medical world, develop new treatments that push the envelope, and make a difference for all children.
Q: What drew you to CHOP?
A: As a medical student in Japan, I read the book Children’s Hospital by Peggy Anderson. This book is about Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and tells the stories of six real-life patients, their parents and their medical teams. I was amazed that this kind of hospital for children really existed. So in 1994, when I came to the United States for a clerkship at Thomas Jefferson University, I visited CHOP. Since then, CHOP has been my dream place to work. I still have that book, too!
Q: Who are your role models?
A: I grew up on the countryside in Japan. Until I was 15, I had never seen a foreigner — English was something only spoken on TV. But my uncle was a pioneer of anesthesia in Japan. And even though he was always so busy, he was also very thoughtful. He is one of the reasons I decided to pursue medicine. In my professional life, I have always admired Norman Shumway, who performed the first heart transplant in the United States, and Thomas Starzl, who performed the first liver transplant. What I admire in these men is that despite obstacles, they kept challenging themselves until they were successful. They experienced failure, but they believed that their work could save lives in the future. So they kept pushing, and they finally made it.
Q: What specific condition or treatment interests you from a research or clinical perspective?
A: When I became an attending at Stanford, the ventricular assist device (a mechanical pump that supports heart function and blood flow) was just on the horizon. I jumped on that, and I’ve focused on it for the last 10 years. I want to continue to pursue research in that area, and I’m also very interested in lymphatic surgery as it relates to heart disease. The Jill and Mark Fishman Center for Lymphatic Disorders is one of the main things that drew me to CHOP.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I love gardening. As a kid, my town was surrounded by rice fields and orchards. I loved working with plants, and even thought I may want to become a farmer! Now I have several plants on my patio that I take care of — it’s very relaxing for me. I also enjoy biking. Biking is great because you can constantly push yourself.
Q. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
A: Honestly, I wouldn’t want a superpower. I wouldn’t have earned what I gained from it. I think it’s better to achieve small goals first, and then build, one at a time. That takes patience, but patience is the most important characteristic of a surgeon.